Tag: Ray Flynn

RACING WITH THE STARS?

The field lists for the winter and spring racing seasons are flooding out now as the sport begins to emerge from its turn-of-the-year hibernation. The Dubai Marathon goes off  tonight at 10 pm ET, while the Boston Marathon, London Marathon along with the New Balance Indoor Grand PrixMillrose Games and USATF National Cross Country Championships have recently released their talent-laden casts.  And just today Competitor Group announced double Olympic champion Mo Farah for their New Orleans Rock `n` Roll Half (with more top names to come, according to athlete coordinator Matt Turnbull.) Running afficionados are anxiously circling calendars and planning their travel and internet viewing accordingly.

At the same time, Entertainment Weekly posted an EXCLUSIVE story today informing us that the ABC reality series Dancing With the Stars has offered Lance Armstrong a spot on its upcoming spring season.  According to the EW story, Armstrong has declined the offer. That news comes on the heels of a similar story about troubled actress Lindsay Lohan who also turned down an appearance on DWTS (reportedly rejecting $550,000 in the process).

So, what’s the lesson here?

I had an email exchange with Millrose meet director Ray Flynn last week regarding the excellent fields that he’s put together for not only the showcase Wannamaker Mile, but for the Two Mile event, as well.  What I wanted to know was, “what needs to be done to gather interest beyond the athletics’ world bubble?  In other words, what are the stakes these athletes are racing for? Isn’t that the missing element when we try to engage the general public? Ok, a wonderful field has been assembled, but what’s the purpose of the race other than winning it? What’s the hook for those outside the sport?”

Ray replied: “The Millrose Games is in its 106th year. Having run it on six occasions, I am a big believer.  I think these kids like the idea of the big stage, we’ll set up a great race, and it’s good timing for them.  You may think I’m deflecting and that athletes only race for money. I don’t think so. They want to know that they will be part of something great! This will be a great race. The first time I got to race in Oslo, I would have slept on the floor.  All that mattered was that I had arrived on the big stage! It’s a show in the end.”

The key to that exchange was that Ray was still looking at his races through the eyes of an athlete; it’s what the races meant to them that counts. What I was wondering was what the races might mean to the public; why would they want to watch?
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B.A.A. CREATES NEW RACE SERIES

    

Amazing how times change.  For decades the Boston Athletic Association was the most staunchly conservative organization in all of running, fighting tooth and nail against the encroachment of open prize money into the Boston Marathon.  After their Luddite stance led to a major reduction in overall participation and an evisceration of the elite field in 1985, Boston Mayor Ray Flynn entered the picture and threatened to pull Boston city permits. Only in the face of that force was the B.A.A. dragged, unwillingly, into the 20th century. By 1986 John Hancock Financial Services was signed as the major sponsor, and the addition of prize money- and Hancock appearance fees – returned Boston to its rightful place at the forefront of world marathons.

Today, the B.A.A. announced the creation of  a new B.A.A. Distance Medley, combining three of its annual events into a single series with a payout to the male and female winners of $100,000 each. The three events, the B.A.A. 5K, B.A.A. 10K, and B.A.A. Half Marathon will be scored by combining times in all three races, and will help celebrate the 125th anniversary year of the organization in 2012.

The only odd thing about the series is that the men and women who might be most likely to win may not participate at all.  You see, with the B.A.A. 5K run on Boston Marathon weekend in April, the athletes who run the marathon on Patriot’s Day won’t run the 5k, too, and therefore will be ineligible for the Distance Medley title and purse.

This year Marathon podium finishers Geoffrey Mutai, Moses Mosop, and Gebre Gebremariam returned to run the B.A.A. 10K in June.  Under the new Medley format, they could still race the 10k, earn prize money for that race, and even compete in the half-marathon (though historically, the B.A.A. Half-Marathon fields in October have not been on par with the marathon fields in terms of quality).  Problem is, they wouldn’t have a 5k time to add for Medley pay-off purposes.

B.A.A. Executive Director Tom Grilk

     Notwithstanding, the B.A.A. Distance Medley is another welcome sign in the fully reformed resurrection of one of the sport’s signature organizations.  Kudos to Executive Director Tom Grilk, under whose leadership the B.A.A. continues to exemplify the bold direction it first displayed during its 19th century beginnings, a goal Grilk articulated earlier this year New Direction Outlined for Boston Athletic Association.

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